A Simple Beginning
The Sisters of the Sorrowful Mother grew from the efforts of a small group of women in the late 1800s. Led by Amalia Streitel, these strong, dedicated women banded together to express their devotion to God and commitment to the example of Christ.
Born in Germany to a well-to-do family, Amalia and her mother regularly visited the poor and sick in their village. As a child, she was deeply affected by the plight of others and often denied herself at the dinner table to have more food to take to others. Although her family wanted her to marry, Amalia knew that she had a much different calling. In the spring of 1866, she entered a Franciscan congregation in Augsburg, Germany, where she took the religious name, Sister M. Angela. She remained there for 16 years as a teacher, musician, and administrator of several of the community's missions.
A New Religious Community
Drawn to a more contemplative life, Sister M. Angela transferred to the Carmelite convent in Wuerzburg, Germany in January, 1882. As a Carmelite, she was known as Sister Petra. It was in Carmel that she first envisioned combining an active life of helping those in need with contemplative prayer. This was quite unusual for religious communities at this period in history, and she was viewed as a daring risk-taker. In 1883, Sister Petra went to Rome to assist Father Jordan, a German priest, with missionary work. When she made vows under Father Jordan, she took the name Sister Mary Frances. She and her companions spent their days in prayer and serving the sick and needy. When this combination of actions conflicted with Father Jordan's goals, the church separated the two founders and their religious foundations. The Sisters of the Sorrowful Mother received approval as a papal institute on September 17, 1885.
Coming to America
Limited resources and serving the poor soon drained the new community financially. Mother Frances sent two Sisters to the United States to seek much-needed funds. Their initial mission was to raise money for work in Europe and to encourage young women to join their crusade. But the Sisters soon found that the need in the U.S. was just as great. Bishop Hennessy of Wichita, Kansas, asked them to stay and run the area's hospital and orphanage. This was the beginning of the Sister's work in the United States.
Across the country, they opened hospitals, schools, and homes for children and the aged. In 1890, the Sisters traveled to Marshfield, Wisconsin, to open Saint Joseph's Hospital. Over the next few decades, they broke ground for other hospitals in Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Iowa, forming the beginnings of the Sister's health care network in the region.
Her Legacy Lives On
On March 6, 1911, Mother Frances died, leaving behind a strong, dedicated congregation. The same day of her passing, Pope Pius X gave final approval to the constitution of the Sisters of the Sorrowful Mother. This ensured that the life and work of Mother Frances and her early companions would continue.
Through the mid-1960s, the congregation saw continued growth with over 1,000 Sisters worldwide. In hospitals and schools around the globe, these women dedicated their efforts to daily care of the sick and to education of children. Sisters of the Sorrowful Mother remain active in Ministry Health Care today, serving the System and facilities in executive, nursing, pastoral care, and many other roles. Though fewer in number today, they continue to give of their time and resources to serve in children's, education, social justice, and health care ministries. Currently, the Sisters operate in Germany, Austria, Italy, Brazil, the United States, the Dominican Republic, and the West Indies.
Learn more about SSM at www.sistersofthesorrowfulmother.org